Category Archives: London landscape

51 : Walk around Pimlico

With the accumulation of different styles over the centuries, speaking of the variety of London’s architecture is somewhat of an understatement. To be honest, sometimes it feels like the whole city has been designed by a schizophrenic architect. This lack of unity, of course, reinforces its cultural wealth and dynamism.

Walking around London you may encounter architectural oddities just around the corner. In Pimlico for instance, a neighbourhood more renowned for its impressive regency style than for its eccentricity, stands a block of rather funny-looking buildings with striking checkerboard patterns.

Grosvenor Estate

Built between Page Street and Vincent Street, they are actually part of a social housing complex of around 600 dwellings called the Grosvenor Estate. It was designed in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who had never designed council houses before and was more famous for the grand houses he’d designed for wealthy client and is best remembered for his work in Delhi.

So who said social housing had to be bland and depressing?

 

Nearest tube station: Pimlico

 

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50: Fall for the views on Saint Paul’s

All it takes to get to the best views on Saint Paul’s Cathedral is to take the glass elevator at the core of the shopping centre One New Change. The open-air public terrace offers a spectacular panorama on the iconic dome and on the city beyond. Icing on the cake, the place tends to be quieter in the weekends, when city boys desert the area.

Image

Tube stations: Saint Paul’s, Mansion House

49: Relish warm scones and delight in the view

There is no wonder why broke Londoners love cream teas: for a moderate price, your cup of tea comes with dainty scones topped with lashings of strawberry jam and sweet clotted cream. For someone who keeps a tight hold on the purse strings, this means a dish as fulfilling as a proper meal, often served in a posh place.

Tate modern’s 6th floor restaurant is a fine place for such a treat. Two warm sultana scones with jam and cream cost less than £5, while the rude staff is compensated by the gorgeous view on the Thames, the millennium bridge and Saint Paul’s standing on the opposite bank. In wintertime, one can enjoy a remarkable nighttime panorama, with city lights glowing in the dark.

Tube station: Southwark

48: Dream of Italy in Little Venice

The water pool where Grand Union and Regent’s Canals meet, directly north of Paddington, is affectionately nicknamed Little Venice.  If you actually know Italy, don’t expect to find it back there; you’d be disappointed. The small, quiet canals of Little Venice have nothing in common with the gorgeous ones of La Serenissima. Yet this peaceful area still seems exotic: walking along the canals, you can feel like you’re thousand miles away from London’s hubbub, although you’re only minutes away from busy Paddington.

Little Venice

Follow the canal downstream through the tranquil neighbourhood of Maida Vale and you’ll reach Regent’s Park in half an hour; if you’re brave enough, you can keep on walking all the way to Camden Town to admire Banksy’s graffiti.

Nearest Tube: Paddington station

47: Take a Sunday stroll around Richmond

A recent survey has showed that the residents of wealthy Richmond upon Thames were among the happiest – if not the happiest – of England. This is hardly surprising: only a few miles away from London’s bustle, Richmond is a haven of peace.

Located on a meander of the River Thames, Richmond boasts a large number of parks and open spaces including one of England’s most famous greens (Richmond green).

Richmond Hill rises a few hundred meters south of the city centre. Though only 165 ft (50m) high, the view from its top has inspired such artists as J.M.W. Turner and Sir Joshua Reynolds and is one of the best-known on the Thames. You may find that the landscape has changed little since its depiction by these masters two hundred years ago.

Image of the view from the top of Richmond Hill

To the south of Richmond Hill lies Richmond Park. Three times the size of Central Park in New York, it was originally a hunting reserve of king Charles I and is famous for the hundreds of deers it still hosts.

On Sundays, a stroll along the river Thames is a popular activity for families and lovers alike. Even if as a broke londoner, you may not afford to live in Richmond (after all, the council prides itself on being “a favourite retreat of Royalty, the rich and the famous”…), you might still wish to check out why Richmond’s inhabitants are so happy with their lot.

Tube station: Richmond

41: Look down from the top of Westminster Cathedral’s Tower

Located in Victoria, Westminster Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in England, should not be confused with Westminster Abbey (part of the Church of England). Its Byzantine design, quite different from the traditional architecture of Great Britain’s cathedrals, contrasts with Victoria’s modern surroundings.

Westminster Cathedral

But what tends to be less known about Westminster Cathedral is that it is actually possible to take a lift up to the top of the bell tower.

View from Wesminster Cathedral's Tower: Wesminster Abbey Of course, the panorama of Westminster Cathedral’s Tower is clearly not worth that of other popular sites such as the London Eye; but going up the bell tower is only £5 (£2,5 for concessions) and the venue is far less crowded (we were actually alone in the tower when we visited it).

View from Wesminster Cathedral's Tower: Vincent's Square At 65 metres high, visitors are rewarded by views encompassing the Parliament, Buckingham Palace or the towers of Battersea power station – though, surprisingly, the Thames, only a few hundred metres away from the Cathedral, is nowhere to be found.

View from Wesminster Cathedral's Tower: Battersea

Tube Station: Victoria

37: Escape to Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath, locally known as the Heath, is an age-old institution in London. According to the legend, the Celtic queen Boudica is buried there; it was also Karl Marx’s favorite family outing. Still today, this hilly park, which covers 320 hectares and comprises woodland, playing fields, swimming ponds, a training track, and which adjoins Kenwood House, remains a genuinely popular public place.

Kenwood House

Kenwood House

There, you may see swimmers taking a refreshing dip in the ponds in the summer time, or even earlier for the bravest ones – the water remains chilly all year long. Hampstead Heath is also used by walkers and runners of all sorts and is believed to be the home of cross-country running in Britain – you can meditate on that while you try and jog up and down the hills without running out of steam.

Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath

Parliament Hill's protected view: one of "the Heath's" trademarks

Indeed Hampstead Heath is also famous for being one of the highest points in London, and, in the Southern end of the park, Parliament Hill’s splendid view over the city is even protected by law. It is a magic place, where lovers on romantic walks meet kite-fliers taking advantage of the wind on the hill.

Kite-fliers in Hampstead Heath

Kite-flying on Parliament Hill

Nearest Tube stations: Hampstead Heath, Gospel Oak Hampstead, Belsize Park,Golders Green, Highgate and Archway